First there was Adam, then came Eve. In 2009, an artificially intelligent robot scientist named Adam was developed by a team of investigators from the Universities of Cambridge and Aberystwyth. Adam proved to be the first automaton to uncover novel scientific knowledge. Now, the same researchers that built Adam have developed Eve, a robot scientist designed specifically to facilitate drug discovery and development. Published in journal Interface, their results describe Eve’s discovery that an anti-cancer agent may have anti-malarial properties as well.
Eve’s artificial intelligence enables her to screen and detect novel drug candidates automatically by first analyzing a large number of small molecule drugs using a “brute-force” approach that involves conventional large scale assays. Early successes from such screens form the basis of Eve’s learning, allowing her to progressively select candidates that are active against the drug target, and eliminate those that are inactive and/or toxic to cells. Although Eve can screen more than 10,000 compounds daily, her efficiency lies in applying what she learns to successive screenings by implementing machine learning and statistical analyses.
In the current study, Eve was set up to screen a library of clinically approved drug compounds in search of those that are active against a specific drug target, in this case against parasitic molecules that cause diseases like malaria. Eve discovered that a compound, which previously showed promise for use in targeting cancer, also inhibits DHFR, a molecule that is found in the malaria parasite. Although anti-DHFR drugs are routinely administered as antimalarial therapy, drug resistance is an ongoing concern. A significant search has been underway for years, but novel clinically safe and effective antimalarial drugs that act against DHFR have not been identified. As such, the current study shows that in addition to demonstrating proof of principle for a novel drug discovery paradigm, Eve’s discovery may have far-reaching benefit for millions of individuals worldwide who are affected by malaria and other tropical diseases.
University of Cambridge: Artificially-intelligent Robot Scientist ‘Eve’ could boost search for new drugs…